The Street Food of Athens, Greece

I adore street food. Simply love it….. and in Athens, some of the best street food is available during the fall and winter months. Just steps away from the ancient agora and under the looming gaze of the Parthenon, lies the Monastiraki section of the city. Take a stroll through this bustling neighborhood where vendors sell fish, meat and vegetables alongside more touristy fare of T-shirts, worry beads and replicas of ancient vases, and you’ll come across one of my all-time favorite treats : roast chestnuts. You have to work a little at peeling back the crispy outer layer, but it’s worth it! Chestnut vendors sell roast corn as well — tastes great with a sprinkle of Greek sea salt on top.

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

If you get thirsty from the chestnuts and corn, just a few steps away is the Salep vendor. What is Salep, you might ask? I passed by this  huge bronze urn for four days before I got up the nerve to try, and found out……. it’s orchid tea!

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

The vendor handed over a tiny cup with a foamy finish, a dash of cinnamon and the most exotic fragrance…….I took a taste and it had the strangest mix of sweet, citrus and nuttiness.

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

Apparently there’s enough demand for orchid tea in Athens to support more than one vendor. In the middle of Ermou, a busy downtown shopping street, this man has also set up shop. And instead of one gleaming bronze dispenser on his mobile cart……

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

…he has two!

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

Keep wandering down this busy pedestrian mall and you’ll bump into an Orthodox church, located in the middle of an intersection.

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

Just behind the church I came across a booth of assorted pastry rings. Some resemble traditional doughnuts, and others come in a variety of flavors. These soft, chewy rings are stuffed with a wide selection of fillings…….

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

……including ham, cheese, tomato, apple, olive, and even chocolate!

Last but not least, what would Athens be without a souvlaki stand? These guys serve up the best, and you can find them across from the Monastiraki subway station, where a fresh souvlaki wrapped in pita costs less than 2 Euros. Even though I was staying on the other side of the city, I managed to find an excuse to wander away from the ancient marbles of the Agora and grab lunch here daily.

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

I’ll have one with everything….tomatoes, tzatziki, and while you’re at it, throw an order of french fries on top!

Find a seat nearby – unwrap your souvlaki (take extra napkins for drips!) and enjoy some of the best people watching in town…….

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

or keep strolling, and perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of some other notable Athenian sites…..

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

such as a temple appearing suddenly between the olive trees.

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

To top off your street food cravings, you can find ice cream anywhere in Athens. My suggestion is to end your moveable feast with something a little different, and one of my favorite Greek treats — pasteli: a unique confection made of sesame seeds and honey.

And if you’re feeling adventurous, pick up a piece of fresh coconut still in the shell….

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

….or just admire the waterworks!

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

The Street Food of Athens, Greece

Amanda Summer

Amanda Summer is a writer and archaeologist who excavates in Greece. She has written for the New York Times, Islands, Archaeology and The Best Travel Writing. When not digging, she lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her family and Airedale terrier. For more stories, visit her website, Travels with Persephone.
The Street Food of Athens, Greece

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The Street Food of Athens, Greece

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Comments

  1. says

    Love learning about the street food of different places. Those pastry rings look especially enticing – mine with chocolate please! Definitely a mouthwatering post!

  2. says

    Good question, and I’ll try to answer. Souvlaki has long been a coverall term for a meat dish involving skewered meat served with vegetables and pita bread. Oftentimes it can also refer to the fast food sandwich of meat sliced off a donor kebab, from the Turkish, referring to the vertical spit of roasted meat. That is also called a gyro sandwich, the word gyro deriving from the word gyrate and referring to the rotating spit. The words are often used interchangeably, and this does create confusion.

  3. says

    Kathy,

    I was surprised, actually, to see these pastry rings alongside ones with traditional ingredients such as cheese and olives. Then again, what doesn’t taste great with a little chocolate?

  4. says

    You live and learn! I just wrote about salep which I only know as a typical Turkish winter treat although here it is more like a soup than tea. Now, thanks to you, I know they make salep in Athens too.

  5. says

    Hello,

    I am starting a tea blog and I would like to ask you permission to post (with credit and a link, of course) your photo of the Monastiraki salep vendor. I bought a cup from him in late March, which I photographed, but neglected to get a shot of the fantastic teapot! Could I please use your picture?

    Thank you!

  6. Leslie says

    What are the name of the coconut sticks? I had them on my trip to Athens and have been looking for them ever since.

  7. says

    We currently dealing with street food. So we found this post really interesting. Feel free to share it with us. Living in Athens I can tell you have got a quite complete reference to the street food you can find in Athens. I could also add the loukoumas, marrons, “malli tis grias” “old’s woman hair”, made by sugar.
    I may find some more if i go back in time…

  8. S Lynch says

    Hello Amanda,

    Great blog! The pictures bring me back to my visit a few years back. I absolutely loved the coconut sticks you can buy from the street vendors and have since scoured the internet for a recipe…a reference.. something… ANYthing on how to make these delicious treats. Would you by chance have any idea where I may find this info? Thanks!